Kibaran Resources Limited (ASX: KNL) has successfully completed a feasibility study on downstream processing of graphite from its Epanko Graphite Project in Tanzania.
The study found that production of battery-grade graphite using Kibaran’s proprietary purification technology would be low-cost and environmentally friendly.
Kibaran has now elected to establish a pilot plant in Germany which will be expanded to commercial scale production for the supply of premium battery graphite to customers in Europe and Asia.
Kibaran Managing Director Andrew Spinks said the results of the feasibility study exceeded the company’s expectations.
“Kibaran is now positioned to commercialise its battery graphite processing plans, commencing with a downstream processing pilot plant early next year and I look forward to updating our shareholders as we progress with this exciting addition to our graphite business.”
Kibaran commenced the feasibility study into the production of battery grade graphite to target increasing demand for lithium-ion batteries from the automobile and renewable energy sectors earlier this year.
The feasibility program was led by GR Engineering and involved extensive testing undertaken by ProGraphite, an international study of new industry developments and the participation of leading laboratories and potential customers. The objective was to identify a non-hydrofluoric acid processing technology to address the demand by lithium-ion battery manufacturers for a more environmentally friendly graphite product and at the same time, meet the stringent quality standards required for anode manufacture.
Kibaran said this was successful with the company able to identify and refine a breakthrough in purification technology capable of producing premium quality battery product at a cost competitive with less environmentally acceptable production techniques adopted by the majority of existing anode material manufacturers.
The company plans to accelerate the commercialisation of battery graphite production operations during 2018, focussing on the establishment of a modular pilot plant with an initial capability of producing 600tpa of unpurified battery-grade graphite by the end of 2018.
The pilot plant will then be used in the ramp-up of throughput rates to 20,000tpa.
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During the feasibility study two types of spherical graphite, SPG14.5 and SPG20, were produced for analysis under commercial production plant conditions. The natural flake graphite used was -195micron, produced from the flotation of Epanko graphite, also within a commercial production plant.
These SPG14.5 and SPG20 products were then evaluated extensively by leading battery anode manufacturers within Asia, all of whom confirmed that the company’s battery graphite satisfies their specification and performance requirements for potential future supply arrangements. The results and feedback provided by these organisations has been universally positive, with particular interest in the company’s new proprietary non-hydrofluoric acid purification process.
The feasibility study demonstrated that electrochemical testing and benchmarking of lithium-ion battery anode cells using the SPG14.5 Epanko anode slurry performed comparably to the standard commercially available anode material, with the results exceeding initial expectations and resulting in requests from major Asian-based anode manufacturers for additional Epanko product samples in order to undertake additional trial testing and analysis.
Discussions with these parties have commenced in relation to potential agreements to supply battery graphite, which will form the basis for the planned expansion of the pilot plant during 2018.
Production of battery graphite typically involves a six-stage process, commencing with medium grade fine natural flake graphite feedstock and applying a combination of mechanical and chemical processes to create a very high purity fine graphite material for the coating of lithium-ion battery anodes. A simplified flowsheet comprises of the following steps: